I am a mother to seven children. No, that is not a typo. I gave birth to five of them. My middle name should be legally changed to Kegel.
Some days I feel like I'm on top of it all. Mostly, I spend my days trying to stay sane amidst absolute chaos. By the end of most days, I feel like I survived some insane war battle. A glass of red wine and an episode (or five) of House of Cards feels like a legitimate vacation.
I love my kids dearly. I would do anything for them. I work from home. I'm there to change the diapers and make their meals. I read them stories and help with their homework. I’m there to kiss the boo-boos and tuck them into bed at night. I try hard to make our home a safe and happy place to grow up.
But, I am more than a mother. And it took me 10 years to realize it.
I was 19 years old when I married and I had 4 kids by age 25. Eventually, I found myself overwhelmed, overweight and depressed. I divorced my first husband after 9 years of marriage.
I had lost myself.
It took me a while to heal from the failure of my first marriage. I put on more weight as I struggled to find myself again as a single mother of four.
Eventually, I met the man of my dreams. He is my soulmate in every sense of the word. I know, I know. It sounds disgustingly cliché. But it’s true. AJ understands me to my core. He loves and supports me unconditionally. We had our seventh child together (AJ has 2 children from a previous marriage), an incredible little boy who has his daddy's beautiful heart.
After our son was born, I worked hard to lose the baby weight I had been carrying for over a decade. I ate healthy and worked out and in one year I lost 35 pounds. I went from a size 12 to a size 6.
Our wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life. AJ and I and our seven children were there. No one else. It was our special day, simple and intimate, and it could not have been more perfect. I was genuinely happy for the first time in a very long time.
But I hated my naked body.
After 5 pregnancies, I could no longer jump or sneeze without peeing myself. My boobs, having been used as a milk dispensary for 5 hungry little monsters, became droopy and flat; my thighs and butt were covered in stretch marks and my stomach could best be described in the words of my six year old--- “like the face of an old granny--” wrinkled, stretched and full of excess skin.
After working hard to lose the baby weight, I longed to feel sexy and confident in a swimsuit and...ahem...in the bedroom.
I had my breasts augmented. I still wasn’t happy.
I decided the answer to my problem was a tummy tuck. If I could just fix my wrinkly, stretched out stomach, I knew I would finally be happy with my body.
AJ insisted that I did not need the boob job, and I certainly did not need more surgery. He tried to help me see the beauty he sees. In spite of how he felt, he was supportive. He started putting away every extra penny he could for my “mommy makeover.” I felt guilty for wanting something so vain, but he knew how much it meant to me and insisted on helping me get there.
Finally, the time came to meet with the surgeon. This guy was the best of the best in Scottsdale, Arizona for tummy tucks. He told me that during my surgery, he could take the excess fat from my love handles and put it in my butt. Perfect tummy and a killer ass? YES PLEASE!
Then something happened to me in a bathroom stall.
Let me explain.
I don’t know what triggered it. It was an ordinary day. I brought the kids to see AJ at work. When we arrived, he was visiting with an older man, one of his regular customers. The man saw me walk in with our children, ages 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 2. He was blown away that AJ had such a large family. AJ chuckled at his reaction and said something about how lucky he was to have found his soulmate. He told the man that our life is crazy but wonderful, and that though it is nearly constant chaos, he has never been happier. Just a simple conversation, but in that moment, I looked into my husband's smiling eyes and was flooded with deep frustration.
What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I robbing myself of happiness over something so unimportant? I have a wonderful life. I have an amazing job, an incredible husband, and 7 healthy and happy children. Why can I not I be satisfied? Why can't I let it go? Why oh why can I not be happy with and thankful for the body I have?
I was getting emotional so I quickly excused myself to the restroom. I sat in that stall and cried. I thought about how lucky I am to be in a healthy relationship with a man who loves and respects and supports me. Though life is stressful, we are so very fortunate. We have seven fantastic children. I am healthier and happier than I have ever been.
It was a moment of clarity and closure for me---a life-changing, almost spiritual moment. Sitting in that bathroom stall, I came to the conclusion that it was time to love and accept and enjoy my post-baby body. It was time to put on that damn bikini.
I made the decision right then and there that those marks were not going anywhere. I don't need a perfect stomach to feel beautiful! These lines and wrinkles represent the making of our family--the sacrifice I made to bring five kids into this world. They remind me of each birthing experience and the overwhelming joy I experienced looking into the eyes of each one of my children for the first time. I am proud of this stomach!
I walked out of that bathroom a new and empowered woman. I wanted to thank AJ for supporting me in this journey toward embracing my body. I wanted to find a special way to break the news to him that I no longer wanted the tummy tuck he had sacrificed so much to save for. I decided to have some professional “sexy” pictures taken for him. I went home, took a deep breath and booked the shoot.
I was nervous to say the least, but the photographer was so sweet and she put me right at ease. It was a life-changing experience—liberating in a way I never expected. I asked her to take a picture with my stomach in it—no photoshopping, no editing…my stomach….just as my husband sees it.
When the pictures arrived, I set up our balcony with candles, pillows and champagne. My heart was pounding. He had no idea what was going on.
I showed him the pictures. He wept. It was one of the most precious experiences we have ever had together. We held each other and cried and expressed our love and gratitude for each other. And then we had incredible sex.
TMI? Too bad.
Moms, let’s quit trying to reach a ridiculous level of perfection. Our bodies are a patchwork of our lives, and those marks represent a journey. Those marks are beautiful. Embrace them! Enjoy your naked body! Have fun with sex! After a long day with kids, Lord knows you deserve a killer orgasm!
Let's make our health and happiness a top priority. Happy mommies raise happy kids!
Every. Single. Day is precious. Put on that damn bikini! Let’s dance! Let’s play! And let’s start making our sexual pleasure as much a priority as our partner’s. Wouldn’t we want the same for our daughters and our daughters' daughters?
Screw thigh gaps! I want my girls to know they can do anything and be anything they set their minds to. I want them to understand that they deserve to be an equal in their relationships, and they can have fun and feel beautiful and have great sex, even after motherhood! I want them to know their bodies are sacred and beautiful and meant to be enjoyed. I want them to love and respect their bodies and I want them to find a partner who does the same.
And if my daughters decide to have children of their own, I want them to be proud of the marks that appear on their tummies. Those are marks of bravery. Of courage. Of love. Of sacrifice. And I will never go back to being anything but proud of them.
Creator of Belpeau Nourishing Exfoliant